Last month, a Varanasi court ordered an archaeological survey of the premises of Gyanvapi Mosque after pleas alleging it was built after partially demolishing a Hindu shrine were filed in court. A lawyer from the Hindu side told the court that a Shivling was found inside the mosque during the survey. However, the Muslim side has maintained that the structure is not a Shivling, but a fountain in the middle of the wazu khana. Amid this development, a picture of a Shivling is making the rounds on social media. It has been claimed that the structure was unearthed during the survey in Gyanvapi Mosque.

A Twitter user posted the image and wrote, “Remnants of idols of Hindu deities have been found in the Kashi Gyanvapi Mosque, which firmly proves that Gyanvapi is ours. History says that Mughals destroyed thousands of ancient temples.” (Archive link)

Supreme Court lawyer Vaibhav Tripathi tweeted the image with the hashtag #GyanvapiMandir, adding, “Mughal architecture is amazing! They always built an ancient Hindu temple in the basement first.” (Archive link)

Facebook user Vikram Gupta posted the viral photo to the ‘Shri Kashi Vishwanath Varanasi Mandir Darshan’ group, stating that Nandi’s “beloved” Shiva had been found.

Several other users amplified the image with the same claim. (Link 1, Link 2, Link 3, Link 4)

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Alt News performed a reverse image search of the viral image using Yandex. We came across a tweet carrying the image dated May 29, 2020, posted by then Union Minister of Tourism and Culture, Prahlad Singh Patel. It states that conservation work was underway at Vietnam’s Mỹ Sơn site. There are seven grand temples on this site, out of which the Archaeological Survey of India was restoring three. Officials at the site found a 9th-century Shivling in the sanctum sanctorum of a temple established by King Indravarman.

Alt News performed a keyword search, which led us to a May 28, 2020 tweet by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar containing the Shivling featured in the viral image. Jaishankar revealed that a monolithic sandstone Shivling dating back to 9th CE was found by the Archaeological Department of India during a conservation project at a Cham Temple complex in Vietnam’s Mỹ Sơn site.

Vietnam Plus similarly reported that Vietnamese and Indian experts unearthed a 9th-century Shivling during the restoration of a Cham temple complex at Mỹ Sơn sanctuary, a world cultural heritage site.

To sum it up, an image of a Shivling unearthed by the Archaeological Department of India during conservation efforts in Vietnam two years ago was falsely shared as the Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi.

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About the Author

Abhishek is a journalist at Alt News.